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Long-term approach on bird flu is best, study finds

Lasting conservation measures targeted at most vulnerable species are recommended in a report for the Scottish Government.

Long-term conservation measures will be the most effective tool against avian flu in wild birds in Scotland, according to a report involving Roslin expertise.

The study, published by Scottish government agency NatureScot, analyses the unprecedented flu outbreak among wild birds since 2021. It provides advice to support the work of Scotland's Avian Flu Task Force, which co-ordinates the national response to the crisis.

Experts from the University of Edinburgh, including the Roslin Institute, which is part of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, contributed to the report.

Ongoing challenge

Bird flu is expected to continue to be an issue among wild birds into the 2023 nesting season and beyond, the study found.

The most effective solutions will likely be long-term conservation measures for birds that are particularly susceptible, accompanied by enhanced disease surveillance, demographic monitoring, and continued research, it says.

The report also looks at the effectiveness and benefits of short-term measures and provides a picture of how avian flu has affected Scotland's wild birds so far.

Once avian flu is present in a wild bird population, it is very difficult to control or reduce it, the study found.

Measures such as carcass removal or reducing human activity across sites, for example, whether for recreation or monitoring, are unlikely to significantly reduce the impact of an outbreak on wild birds.

Although there’s no silver bullet to solve this complicated dilemma, this report will be a great help as the Avian Influenza Task Force plan action to reduce the effect of avian flu on Scotland’s important populations of wild birds. This is an utmost priority for our partners and ourselves, as the geographic scale, range of species of wild birds affected, and severity of impacts may threaten the very survival of some species.

Alastair MacGuganNatureScot Wildlife Manage

Related links

NatureScot report

Scotland’s Avian Flu Taskforce

Image credit: Kristin Snippe on Unsplash


About the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies 

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Our purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than 800 staff and almost 1400 students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos. 

The School comprises: 

The Roslin Institute 

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems 

The Roslin Innovation Centre 

The Hospital for Small Animals 

Equine Veterinary Services 

Farm Animal Services 

Easter Bush Pathology 

The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education 

We represent the largest concentration of animal science-related expertise in Europe, impacting local, regional, national and international communities in terms of economic growth, the provision of clinical services and the advancement of scientific knowledge.